Ever struggle with beginners? Ever find the new guy doing weirdly well? It’s a strange experience, having someone come in ‘off the street’ and giving more trouble than someone who’s been training for months. This tends to be more of a thing with the striking arts, but can happen to grapplers as well, and though there is an easy, clear way to deal with the newbie, you really shouldn’t do it.
I think the reason people do so well early on is their lack of fear. They can swing for the fences, not realizing what can and can’t hurt them, their punches wild and unpredictable and therefore hard to deal with. A lot of what makes a technique good in striking is not just the damage you can inflict, but the damage you avoid taking. Defensive responsibility is an important, and often overlooked aspect early on in training. Next time you spar someone your level, notice that they stop coming forwards even if you hit them lightly (or at least they should) and notice that a complete novice can be the exact opposite. The experienced fighter knows what would have hurt them, and backs off because of it. The way to deal with a reckless beginner then? Pressure them. Be mean. Hit them. They’ll cover up, and if they don’t, they’ll take damage. If they’re not defending themselves, make them defend themselves, or punish them for not doing so. They’ll stop trying to take your head off one way or another.
BJJ can have a similar phenomenon, with beginners latching on to your head, your arms, stifling your movement and stopping you submitting them. The solution here? You’ve got two options. First, dominate position – it’s hard to submit anyone who is staying tight and defensive, but BJJ isn’t really about submitting your opponent, it’s about controlling them. It’s so common for people at the start of their BJJ journey to claim to be great defensively, but that mostly comes from a lack of understanding about the position they’re in. A beginner might stay alive by being defensive, but they wont do ‘well’. And as for your second option – be mean. If newbies are going to grind their elbows into your ribs and thighs, and make positions uncomfortable and unpleasant, do it back to them. If they’re going to stay tight and defensive, open them up with whatever you can.
So whichever martial art you’re in, if you’re dealing with beginners who are doing well out of ignorance, the solution is to be mean. And whichever sport you’re in, if you are dealing with beginners this way, you’re an asshole. Seriously, don’t do it. Unless they’re smashing people smaller than them and need a check of their own, there’s no reason.
Being upset that you didn’t destroy a beginner is completely born out of ego. And really, what do you gain out of it? I doubt your skills will improve from fighting people who don’t know what they’re doing. If you’re training for a fight/match/competition you shouldn’t be sparring those people, and if you’re not getting ready for something like that, what is gained from crushing them? They wont come back to the gym, the martial arts family wont grow, and someone is just going to end up upset because you wanted to feel big. If you’re the sort of person who does that, I wouldn’t want you training with me in any case.
The way to deal with beginners who are doing weirdly well? Beat them up. The thing to do with beginners who are doing weirdly well? Help them grow. You’ll learn, they’ll learn, and everyone wins.